Blue building becoming Mesa’s white elephant - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Blue building becoming Mesa’s white elephant

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Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 9:12 am | Updated: 6:03 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Nothing has gone Mesa’s way in its effort to get rid of the blue building.

The former Bank One building sits on a prime commercial corner downtown at 1 N. Macdonald — a block from Mesa’s high-profile $94.5 million performing arts center, due to open next year.

The city bought the deserted building and its small parking lot for $1.5 million in 1997. Officials thought about demolishing the structure and paving the lot, but calculations showed it was cheaper not to.

So they spent $500,000 to remove asbestos, and advertised it to developers around the country.

Dozens of firms said they could make the building into something cool. Visions included executive offices, luxury loft apartments, fine dining, and even a Starbucks.

But for each of the firms Mesa chose, it required a complete remake of the building. Some estimates approached $5 million.

Two couldn’t get financing — in one case because the city forbid retail sales on the ground floor. Mesa has since lifted the restriction.

Now the third firm is having financial woes. Tempebased Outsource International will ask the City Council on Monday to extend the deadline to find money.

The federal government seized the insurance company that was backing Outsource’s plan, Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh said. The company did not return a call Tuesday.

Councilwoman Janie Thom said the city has been too picky.

"It would work if the city would just sell that building to somebody and not tell them what to do with it," Thom said.

Thom said she has talked to Lifeteen International about buying the building.

The Catholic ministry group has outgrown its office at 1730 W. Guadalupe Road in Mesa.

"They’re looking for something they could grow into," Thom said.

Dale Fushek, founder and chairman of the board, could not be reached Tuesday. Phil Baniewicz, the group’s president, did not return calls.

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